Starbucks has found itself in a legal squabble with a South Dakota Internet Service Provider over the use of three letter acronym SDN, which the coffee retailer users to refer to its Starbucks Digital Network. In a preemptive lawsuit filed earlier this month, Starbucks sued Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based Internet service provider South Dakota Network LLC which owns the trademark on “SDN.”

Starbucks launched its Starbucks Digital Network last October, providing free access to the Internet from Starbucks’ stores from the Web site. Two days later, an attorney for South Dakota Network contacted Starbucks about the use of the acronym SDN. Shortly thereafter South Dakota Network sent a cease and desist letter to the coffee giant asking that it stop using the acronym before February 1.

Compromises were discussed between the two companies, but those discussions fizzled.

“Defendant’s accusation of willful infringement casts a cloud over Starbucks’ ongoing use and development of the Starbucks Digital Network, threatens to cause irreparable harm to Starbucks, and threatens Starbucks’ substantial investment in the Starbucks Digital Network,” Starbucks wrote in its law suit filed in U.S. District Court in Nebraska.

In its suit, Starbucks asks the court to allow its use of SDN and asks that an injunction be imposed stopping South Dakota Network from threatening additional legal action.

The Associated Press reports that South Dakota Network intends to defend its trademark, with the company’s marketing director Vernon Brown saying that “our biggest concern … is the potential confusion it causes for customers.”

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  • Anonymous

    Starbucks should just change the name of it’s digit network. They could call it ‘Starbucks Internet Network’. No one’s got a patent on that acronym. 

  • Jerry

    Starbucks didn’t check the acronym before using it?  And now they are suing some tiny company.  Sounds like Goliath saying “We can spend more money on lawyers than they can.”  Nice move Starbucks.

  • Anonymous

    I didn’t even know Starbucks had free WiFi. I thought they offered WiFi that you had to pay for.

  • Tricia

    Actually I agree with Starbucks. I think they should be able to use SDN as an acronym. It’s for abbreviation purposes on their site only. They aren’t promoting the company as SDN, That would be an infringement. Any company should be able to abbreviate their name on their site. Starbucks Digital Network is too long to say over and over again on their site. For that matter any other companies with those initials should be able to abbreviate their name.
    For example ABC stores can defend the name of their stores, no other company can name their stores ABC. But they can’t prevent other businesses from using those letters as an abbreviation of their name internally or on their web page. Associated Building Contractors can and does call themselves ABC, So does ABC broadcasting, American Broadcasting Network. An acronym is not a name, it’s an abbreviation and I don’t believe it’s an infringement on trademark.

    • Bio_tor

      But the acronym SDN is a trademark.  Not just an abbreviation.

    • Tricia Tomlinson

      It still seems to me that SDN is too broad to only allow one company to use it. Other companies with the same initials should be able to abbreviate their name too. AAA is a commonly used abbreviation for many businesses. I wonder if any of them have AAA registered as a trademark. I think if other companies cannot use SDN do to a trademark issue the trademark should be reversed. I can think of several companies with the same initials that call themselves SDN to their clients so they don’t have to say 3 words. Look up SDN in wikipedia there are many examples there too.

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